The European Parliament yesterday (15 November) passed a resolution urging the Bangladesh Government to allow the work of the Transition Accord on Fire and Building Safety to continue beyond November this year.
In passing the resolution, the European Parliament also called on the Bangladesh Government to act urgently to address deteriorating human rights conditions in the country. In particular it points to the ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression and association, labour rights abuses and anti-union discrimination and extrajudicial killings.
Its stance also expresses “serious concern” at the imminent annulment of the Transition Accord, which is currently set to be expelled from Bangladesh on 30 November.
The Transition Accord is the follow-on to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, which was formed in 2013 following the Rana Plaza building collapse and whose five-year tenure to improve safety standards in Bangladesh’s ready-made garment sector ended on 31 May 2018.
The government’s Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC) is set to oversee workplace safety and remediation once the Transition Accord ends, but the RCC “does not yet have the capacity to monitor and enforce health and safety requirements, with the serious implications for the safety and rights of factory workers that this entails,” the European Parliament says in its resolution.
It urges the government of Bangladesh to “immediately recognise and implement the Transition Accord and show greater readiness to take over all of the functions of the Accord.” It also calls on donors to support the government in order to make this possible, and further calls on the Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) to continue their capacity-building work with the RCC.
The resolution also urges the European Commission to review the preferential trade status of Bangladesh – which currently benefits from duty-free access to the European Union under the Everything But Arms (EBA) programme – because the government is violating the conditions set out by the Accord, the Sustainability Compact and the terms of their most favourable trade arrangement with the EU.
A spokesperson for the Accord told just-style it welcomes the support from the European Parliament. “We are hopeful that the government of Bangladesh will act in the best interest of the RMG industry, the millions of workers, Accord signatory brands and trade unions, and take all necessary steps to allow the Accord’s office in Bangladesh to operate until our work is completed and the government is ready to take over our functions.”
Meanwhile, the Clean Clothes Campaign describes the Accord’s safety inspection programme is the only credible programme in Bangladesh. Without it, the labour rights group says there will be no way to ensure garment factories remain safe.
“Last June, during the meeting of the EU-US Bangladesh Sustainability Compact, it was also confirmed that the Accord should remain until such time as the Bangladesh government is ready to take over, which it currently isn’t,” CCC adds.
The group is urging all brands and retailers to “make their orders conditional on the Accord being able to stay.”
The European Parliament, meanwhile, says Bangladesh’s human rights issues will be further discussed at the EU-Bangladesh Joint Commission being held in Dhaka in the first half of 2019.
In July, representatives of the 180 brands that have signed the 2018 Transition Accord have warned that a premature shut-down of the agreement would make them reconsider their sourcing in Bangladesh.